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Experience of Shining Stars PCS finding a home is the norm, not the exception

“It’s normally a little more rational than what has been happening, but they’ve had a series of fluke-y events — it’s bizarre. This shouldn’t happen again. More broadly, can we find a process whereby a charter looking for space can cut a deal to lease a vacant D.C. public school space?”

This is the comment by Skip McKoy, the chairman of the D.C. Public Charter School Board to the Washington Post's Karen Chen in reaction to the second permanent facility deal collapsing for Shining Stars PCS just days before the start of its school year and less than 48 hours after his organization voted to approve a move to Ward 3.

Now I hate to disagree with my friend and co-worrier in the local charter school movement but his observation could not be more inaccurate. The torture in attempting to secure a building is the experience charter school after charter school goes through routinely to land a temporary or permanent facility. In fact, I contend that the average number of failed contract negotiations a charter must endure before knowing where they will be situated is the number three.

I recently documented the tremendous difficulty Harmony PCS faced in identifying a home. I have now served on the board of directors of three charters and it was as if I was watching the same bad movie playing on a repeat reel. I think perhaps the most absurd time for me was when a group of us were trying to open the William E. Doar, Jr. PCS for the Performing Arts. We held multiple open houses in D.C. libraries during the summer before the first term began. When parents asked where the school would be located we had to say that we didn't yet know the answer to this fundamental question. Unbelievably, 150 brave parents signed up for the innovative program without having a clue as to the address of where they would be dropping off their elementary school children.

I have also served on the boards of Cesar Chavez PCS and Washington Latin PCS and these institutions have gone through completely identical scenarios. Look, there are some extremely smart people in this town and we have been at this charter thing for about two decades. Are you telling me that no one can figure this out?

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